Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interview with Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is a speculative fiction writer (not sure what that is? Read this article:). He also hosts a weekly Science Fiction And Fantasy Writer’s Chat on Twitter.

How did you get started in your line of work?
I have always loved words and reading. My earliest first book love was Dr. Seuss’ Cat In The Hat and Richard Scarry books and it just grew from there.

I started making up stories at a very young age. The editing came later. I was winning writing contests as early as Junior High School and have always dreamed of pursuing it full time.

What was your path towards publication like?
Rocky Road… and I don’t mean I ate lots of ice cream. It’s hard to get published and I wanted to do it right.

Self-publishing has its place and I don’t put anyone down who goes that route but to truly feel successful and reach the level I desire, I knew I needed to go through the gatekeepers—agents, editors, NY—so I sought that route.

It was about building relationships, learning the business, and learning craft. Writing and failing a lot. Learning from feedback. Reading and studying what I read a lot and trying again. Then networking and building on those relationships until I got to the point where the gatekeepers said I was ready.

It can take years and lots of dedication and you hear “no” way more than one person should ever have to, but that’s the path so many have trod before and you just have to believe in yourself and do it.

What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to pitching yourself as an author and what steps have you taken to overcome that obstacle?
Well I am a Christian writing Science Fiction which is a field full of Atheists and others who are not Christ-friendly so that’s a pretty big obstacle.

I am also not writing preachy evangelistic work, so that helps. I write fiction. Good stories with good characters and messages, but not all filled with Christianity.

The biggest way I sell myself is to focus on my knowledge of writing, of science fiction and being family friendly.

What is your best advice for getting past writer's block?
My advice is this: keep multiple projects going.

When writing a book, have a couple articles or short stories going so when you get stuck on one, you can switch to the others just to shake up your brain.

Also write every day; even if it’s crap. Everyone writes crap, even big name authors. You have to do the work to get the results. If you’re stuck, there’s a reason, so put time into sorting out where the issue lies.

Until you solve it, you won’t get past it. But never let it keep you from daily writing because it’s like exercising, you have to do it daily to stay in shape.

What was the best writing-related advice you ever received?
This ties into what I just said. Best advice ever: Concert pianists at the height of their fame and success must practice daily, so why shouldn’t writers? If you don’t write, you lose focus and get out of shape. To be a success, you must practice. And that means daily. Sometimes you’re just doing it to keep your mind and fingers in shape. You may not produce much you can use but you do it because if you don’t, then when you’re performance comes, you won’t be ready.

What do you feel is the single most detrimental thing a writer could do to destroy his/her career?
You have to be willing to constantly study the business and learn. You must be smart about marketing; which takes a lot of creativity. Be willing to try and fail.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
The Worker Prince is book 1 in a space opera series based in part on the Moses story. It’s about a prince who discovers he was born a slave and sets out to free his people, coming into conflict with his old family and friends and finding himself and love along the way.

The Worker Prince Book 2, which I am polishing now, comes out this summer and follows up the first book as the slaves seek to become full citizens but some of the former owners still have issues and conflicts arise that could change everything.

Both have the feel of Star Wars and are written in a Golden Age style. They are family friendly. The language has no unnecessary or graphic violence and characters who are admirable in stories of hope and inspiration.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I had the idea in my teens and it gestated for 25+ years before I actually sat down to write it. By then it only took 4 months to write… because for years and years I pondered the first sentence, the characters, and the saga before actually writing it.

It was inspired by my love of movies like Star Wars and the Star Trek films, my passion for Bible stories, and my love of heroes—admirable mean and women one could emulate who fought incredible odds to do the right thing and change their world.

In our nihilistic present day culture, people need heroes more than ever and so much literature is fraught with anti-heroes. Even our athletes and politicians are anti-heroes, with big flaws that disappoint us.

Characters should be flawed and human but there’s nothing wrong with them inspiring us and being the kind of people we’d like to be either. So I wanted to create a story with those elements like the ones from my youth which inspired me so much and still do.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing this book?
Learning the craft. I had already tried and failed at one novel. I had no idea what I was doing. I came from a film school background. I had no idea how to write prose, especially description and emotive language.

I had to learn as I went and it took a lot of drafts and critiques and hard work. The Worker Prince still has its weaknesses which I tried to correct in The Returning but writing is a journey. If you ever stop learning and growing, you’re done. And I don’t want to be done until I’m dead so I hope every book and story shows improvement. I’m learning every day.

Did you have to do any special research for your book?
Mostly science and a friend helped me with that. We needed to create a viable solar system and calculate which planet would have what type of geography and lifestyle and their travel distance and times between planets.

Also, with two suns we had to calculate orbits and how gravity from two suns played a part in that. It’s the type of thing I’m not that good at but my friend was. Beyond that I researched space opera. What are the tropes? What’s cliché? What’s been done? How can I do it fresh? Etc.

If you could choose just one thing for your book to accomplish, what would it be?
Restarting a trend of positive stories with larger than life, encouraging heroes. If I could inspire a trend in that direction away from nihilism in Science Fiction again, I’d be very happy and proud.

Also family friendly stuff works. More people need to write it. There’s no need for sex and over the top violence and bad language in books for kids. They will encounter that stuff enough in later life. It’s not our place as writers to expose them or impose our values. I’d like to see more authors realize that and respect that and write appropriately so parents have more books to encourage their kids to read without worry and kids can enjoy reading more without all those pressures and difficult processing required.

It should be fun to read and younger generations are not embracing it as much. That’s a huge loss, not just for the publishing industry, for society on multiple levels. Lofty goal, I suppose, but I always think big.

What’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat?
SFFWRTCHT is my weekly Twitter talk show, basically. (Use the hashtag #sffwrtcht)

Three weeks a month we interview authors, editors and publishers involved in professional Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror writing. I ask most of the questions then audience members pipe in.

Later, I publish the transcripts at http://www.bryanthomasschmidt.net/sffwrtcht and clean them up for interview columns every Thursday on GraspingForTheWind.com.

I basically wanted to create a convention panel live on the web so writers like me who can’t afford to attend every convention could learn from the writers and others who have gone before. It’s been a great success and a whole lot of fun for me.

What’s ahead for your writing?
I am working on several fantasy projects, including an epic fantasy which has faith-based magic and a sword and sorcery novel, too.

Order The Worker Prince on Amazon.com for just $15, or the e-book for $5

Learn more about Bryan Thomas Schmidt at http://www.bryanthomasschmidt.net


This post was sponsored by The Dabbling Mum.

For more articles like this, check out The Dabbling Mum eMagazine.

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